Joe Calzaghe – What Next? What If?!

07.07.06 - By Darryl Waterhouse: Anyone I know, speak to, or write to knows I love my boxing; more so, I enjoy the purity of the sport. Hit, and don’t get hit. Joe Calzaghe carries this innate ability in such abundance his craft (when the mood takes him) is simply beautiful. When he decides he fancies a tear up, he then widens his stance, stands square on, and unleashes with devastating speed and accuracy..

Calzaghe as a younger man was always a talented sportsman. The rumour mill carries the idea of him being blessed in several of our more common British pastimes, and alleges the possibility of him turning professional in something other than boxing. So I guess at this point in my article, I’d like to thank him for choosing the path that he has. As an amateur performer Calzaghe won 3 ABA titles in Britain.

Winning 1 ABA title is an achievement in itself, but 3 is solid proof that in this young man, we really did have someone incredible. Rangy, fast, frighteningly fast actually, and devilishly accurate his ability to move, throw, and keep an opponent off balance, and importantly off-guard is simply superb. Joe fights equally well on the inside as he does at range, his strike variance and balance sublime.

Calzaghe won his WBO title on 11th day of October 1997 against former member of the ‘Terrific Trio’ Chris Eubank, a title he still holds. Joe Calzaghe was just 24 years old. Messrs Parris, Thomas and Francis adjudged Calzaghe to have whitewashed the former WBO middleweight and super-middleweight world champion. Since then, he simply hasn’t looked back. Since that evening in Sheffield, Calzaghe has defended his title 18 times. Whilst his opponents have not always been best of breed, and he has still given his public a share of lack-lustre performances, he has always pulled out the stops and given us results. When he has needed to, he’s always entertained us.

Whilst we can’t really hold Joe Calzaghe responsible for the quality of his opponents (nor can we blame Frank Warren for Joe's opponents), he was been in something of a quandary for much of his career where he has been in the unfortunate position of not being able to have fighters take him on. I mean, who really wants to go in, look bad, and then lose? Sven Ottke ran from Calzaghe for years (the standing Ottke joke in our family is that he simply ran from everyone!). By my reckoning, Mikkel Kessler will follow suit. When fighters have signed up to fight Calzaghe, either he, or they have been injury stricken and fights have been generally postponed or just outright cancelled.

Calzaghe has often spoken about his wanting to become a multiple-weight champion, and he’s more than capable. There are also several potential mega fights available to him. That is I mean mega-money fights. None of the presently spoken of crop of boxers would provide the challenge necessary to him, however, as par for the course, we will attempt to discuss them a little later.

Calzaghe wants glory, recognition, induction to the Hall of Fame, to sit back after hanging up his gloves and be truly satisfied within himself as both a boxer, and as a man, and so far whilst he may be able to slip in to the HoF through a side door, there won’t be any trumpets sounding or 21 gun salutes. This is a great shame. When prompted during an interview in his preparations for the Lacy bout Joe Calzaghe was asked if he harboured any career regrets. With something of a cheeky smile that is fast becoming a trademark he replied “Yes”. This both surprised and intrigued me. “Not being born 3 years earlier” was the response; “I wish my hands would stop breaking!” was the following statement. This saddened me somewhat. Here stands a man, achieved so much, delightful demeanour, graceful technician, excellent professional work ethic, and film-star looks telling us he wants more. I then realised during the difficult times, through the pain of divorce, the never-ending sea of injuries this is the very crux of his character that makes him what he is. He quite simply will never stop wanting more, and will never give up. Earlier I mentioned the qualities and skills emblazoned in Joe Calzaghe which makes him a great boxer, but this quality is different, this is an all encompassing trait which a man can carry through his entire life no matter what he does.

Present talk is of a ring return (damage dependent) around September of this year. So what happens now?

Several potential opponents are in the mix. His management is from all reports still in talks with the Roy Jones Jr. camp. I love Jones, but whilst this is a fight I’d watch, I’d be reluctant to pay to go and see it. Jones has given us some truly magical moments over the course of his long and successful career. Wowing us all with his long switching style, ability to mix it on the inside, or fight at distance belittling some world class opponents with his punching, and counter punching style and amazing one-punch and combination knockouts, but this is a fight he simply wouldn’t win. Allow me to explain. Jones is far from shot, far from washed up, but simply can’t get ‘up’ to fighting at the moment. He’ll quite happily take the pay days, and who can blame him? He lost to the one-hit wonder Antonio Tarver twice, the first being a lovely counter punch knockout to the temple scrambling Jones balance and leaving him with no equilibrium, but to me that actually meant little. As the learning fighter he is, upon their rubber match he simply never got in the way, but having fought at heavyweight, putting on all of that muscle in the correct fashion, he would never be the same fighter at light heavyweight again. My suggestion to RJJ is go back up to heavy, and pitch for a bout with James Toney, with whom he once shared the ring, and shut him up once and for all. Calzaghe may now be 34 years old, but at this stage in both boxers’ careers, Calzaghe would simply have too much. Too much speed, accuracy and even if the first couple of rounds, Calzaghe would simply get inside and hurt Jones. I’d be describing this quite differently if I’d been writing this same article 6 years ago, but right now it’s Joe Calzaghe on the top of the world.

Antonio Tarver is another name in tow. And strangely, I think Tarvers’ ability might keep Calzaghe at bay for a short while. I used to believe that Tarvers’ boxing ability was better than it actually is. Again, Calzaghe at touching 6’, and Tarver at *only* 6’2” would make for an interesting bout. Although when you account for the fact that the actual reach advantage for Tarver is only 1” in each glove, and the fact he likes to hang out his chin, I think Calzaghe would step up to the plate, pitch, and knock him right out. Bear also in mind that Joe Calzaghe has delivered two devastating losses to the much taller (6’3”) Mario Veit, and that alone carries indication of Calzaghe’s ability to handle taller fighters than him.

Glencoffe Johnson is another suggested opponent. He’s also one who fancies the pay day, hence his camps’ hard talking on a proposed fight. Indeed, this one was scheduled to actually go ahead before Calzaghe’s back injury. I like Johnson as a man. Here’s a guy written off so many times in his career as someone who really shouldn’t and perhaps couldn’t cut it at the highest of levels. He has munged his way past our own Clinton Woods twice (though I do believe if a tertiary bout comes off that Woods will stop him), and has a credited KO against the legendary Roy Jones. He simply doesn’t respond to speed well, and would most likely attempt to saunter aimlessly through a bout with Calzaghe and take a defeat on points. His paper credentials would provide him the opportunity against Joe, but his inability to work effectively at pace would be his almighty downfall. And fall he would.

Mikkel Kessler please step up, sign up, and prove you really are a champion. To many, Kessler is an unknown quantity. Kesslers’ last outing against an aged Eric Lucas may have been a convincing win on paper, but given the fact that other than perhaps his bout Manny Siaca, he’s not really fought anyone either in their prime, or of any real note. This one may too be dead in the water if Kessler can’t get past the tricky Markus Beyer. Time will tell.

Earth and time wait for no man, and are as relentless as they are punishing to a boxers short career, they show no sympathy, empathy or remorse. The fact that Calzaghe is now 34 makes for limited future displays; so timing, training and the right bouts are more important now than they ever were before.

I for one would sincerely love to see Joe Calzaghe make 20 defences. No longer does he need to prove himself in this division, and I for one wouldn’t complain watching him see that out against his lesser mandatory opponents.

Whilst I enjoy the “What If’s?”, I’m not a big fan of them in general. I would however have liked to have seen Calzaghe fight Steve Collins. Collins was something of a ‘bridging’ champion. A stalwart Irish warrior wore his heart on his sleeve and gave everything. He filled a gap between the end of the Eighties glory years of middle and super middle weights before the newer crop set in; the likes of Calzaghe and dare I say it, Sven Ottke.

I’ve no doubts at all how this fight would have gone. It would have gone to points. Collins was an exceptionally hard worker. A man prepared to walk through walls to help his cause, but as a pure boxer he lacked speed and tactical prowess. Not to say the fight wouldn’t have been entertaining, and Collins wonderful ability to draw his fights in to telephone box type brawls may have provided Joe Calzaghe with a few, if not a lot of problems. As the cream always rises to the top, I’d have expected a Calzaghe victory.

So as Calzaghe makes his preparations to close on a very successful, if not always sparkling nor completely recognised career, I’d like to say thank you Joe Calzaghe, its truly been a pleasure watching you work.

As always ladies and gentlemen, I welcome your feedback and your comments.

Article posted on 07.07.2006

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